Less than a fortnight into her term as President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen walked into the EU Parliament on December 11 and presented her administrations’ first major initiative – the European Green Deal, an ambitious action plan designed to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

“Today is the start of a journey. This is Europe’s man on the moon moment,” von der Leyen said before making her climate pitch. “The climate crisis that we face will not wait for anyone. There is no time to waste and Europe is not wasting time.”

Her announcement took place a day before Europe’s leaders gather in Brussels to attend the last European Council’s last meeting for 2019.

The Green Deal is part of the Commission’s strategy to implement the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals and the policy package that was presented will work as the EU’s initial roadmap for the key policies and measures that are
needed to achieve the European Green Deal, which will enshrine climate neutrality by 2050 goal into law through the introduction of the EU’s first climate legislation in 2020.

Once the law comes into force, the transition to a climate-neutral continent will be binding for the European Union’s 28 individual members.

“We are in a climate and environmental emergency…We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation. Moreover, our responsibility is to make sure that this transition is a just transition, and that nobody is left behind as we deliver the European Green Deal,” said the EU’s Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

To ensure that the transition will be seen as fair and burden-free for both individuals and businesses, the Commission will, in early 2020, present the Just Transition Mechanism that will facilitate a €100 billion of investment into the bloc’s most needy regions, most of which still rely heavily on coal and fossil fuels.

“We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us,” said von der Leyen, who added that the deal could extend beyond Europe’s borders. Prior to the December 11 rollout, von der Leyen had hinted that a more ambitious global plan was in the works, one that would see Europe play a leading role in leading the developed world towards climate-neutrality.

The current draft outlines of the deal set timelines for 49 policy measures, with some – including the just Transition Mechanism, the European Climate Pact, EU’s industrial strategy for a clean and circular economy, and the Green agenda for the Western Balkans – set to arrive in the first months of 2020.

The Commission will also present a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to help meet the additional annual €260 billion investment needs, so as to meet the current 2030 climate and energy targets. The European Investment Bank, Europe’s climate bank is expected to provide further support, while the private sector has also been called on to contribute to the financing of the green transition, based on the upcoming EU Commission’s Green Financing Strategy, which will be presented in the coming months.

Von der Leyen’s deal appears to have the overwhelming support of Europe’s 500 million resident, most of whom say that protecting the environment is important. In a recent survey by Eurobaromoter found that, when asked, 8 of 10 Europeans believe that environmental protection can boost economic growth.

The European Green Deal. Source: European Commission